Disrupt   |  June 29, 2013

Obama's Africa tour underway

Though President Barack Obama recently met privately with Nelson Mandela’s family in South Africa, he is in the region for more than just sentimental reasons. Joining Karen Finney were Congresswoman Karen Bass D-Calif., from the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, and journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

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>>> the outpouring of love shows that this speaks to something very deep in the human spirit . the yearning for justice and dignity that transcends boundaries of race and class and faith. and country.

>> that was president obama today in a press conference in south africa . he also met privately with the mandela family. in deference to the family, he said he will not be meeting with nelson mandela himself. the president is in south africa for more than sentimental reasons. it is part business trip and it may be overdo. as the president pointed out at the press conference, six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world during this past decade are in africa . presumably that's why the chinese president already went to africa in march and why african leaders have been visiting china since. obama may find inspiration in africa but he is also following the moyer. joining me are congresswoman karen bass from the subcommittee on africa , global health , global human rights and national organizations, and journalists and author, charlene. thank you both for joining me. i want to start with you, congresswoman. it feels like this trip is overdo for a lot of reasons but i think we don't underscore enough the economic and national security importance that africa can play.

>> absolutely. by the way, congratulations on your show. you are so right. in a way, i think the united states is late to the party. if you look at india, china, brazil, turkey, a lot of countries are very, very well aware that you know, the african continent is over 54 countries. over a billion people and we have economies now that are much more stable, a growing middle class and the united states needs to be very much involved. and i think it is one of the areas where the president has had a lot of accomplishments but it has gone unnoticed. so i'm very glad he's there now.

>> you know, the president spent some time today at a town hall meeting with young people . and obviously, young people have played such an important role in south africa 's history. what is the mood of young south africans today? as optimistic as they were before?

>> well, you have more of them going to school today than prior to 1994 during the apartheid era but it is not a good picture. i was so happy to see the president trying to inspire and the young people responding. some of them also demonstrated. but it is 50% of the population in south africa are young people . and yet 71 that he is of those ages 15 to 34 are unemployed. not all of them would be. someone recently wrork unemployedness, undereducatedness equals unemployability. and i think that's the challenge that south africa is facing now. what to do with these kids who by the time they get to fifth grade are behind. they're not passing their high school , they call it matric. and many get to college for the first time in their lives are unable to complete it. so you've got a situation where you have a vast majority of the population and the future generations as michelle obama said today, challenging them, are not going to be prepared for the roles they need to assume.

>> one of the things we've heard in other parts of africa , when he there is not opportunity, that can create havens for negative impacts like terrorism, other forces to come in. what does american investment in africa , south africa , how do we help turn that around?

>> i think it is true in many parts throughout the continent. if you think about our cities here, when you have young people who are unemployed, if people can't survive in an economy legally, they will survive illegally. so that's the concern. i think that we have to make any investment. i was excited to hear about the president increasing and expanding his young leaders ' program. you know one of the announcements he made. the program has been going on for a while but he announced there will be 500 young leaders from around the continent who will be invited to the united states for mentor shims with organizations, corporations and universities here. so contributing to the overall leadership development of t mment of the continent i think is key. i'll give you one example. general electric , for example, is involved in 22 countries on the continent. when they go to the continent, they are not bringing u.s. workers. that's one of the things that's different with the chig he's. the chinese sometimes bring the work force with them. as our corporations are involved, we need to be making sure we are employing the local people. that's a contribution we can make.

>> i want to switch gears a little bit. obviously we can't ignore major event, that is the health of president nelson mandela who has been such a rare figure. not just to africa but around the world. he inspired me as a high school student . i think a lot of people have their stories of how he inspired. what will his legacy be in south africa and around the world?

>> i think that he stood for reconciliation. he stood for fairness and justice. he stood for, you know, bringing people together. the rainbow nation . and i think that this younger generation that we're talking about needs, they're born-frees. some of that legacy, they don't even know what he stood for. i think it is important to put that out there. his vision will be there. now whether or not the country can live up to it, because the rainbow nation has a lot of rain falling on it right now. and so the importance of stressing that vision i think is really clear. one other thing. people keep talking about him being on life support . i'm told by sources close to the family that he is having oxygen given to him. he is not on life support at this point. and more over, we might begin to discern something about his condition once they allow him to go home. i do not think that he will transition while he is in the hospital. he wants to be at home. his family would want to be at home. that's just my gut instinct --

>> tradition.

>> right.

>> last question to you. that transition is going to mark an incredibly powerful moment in south africa 's history. because obviously his presidency was a powerful moment in south africa 's history. what do you think his legacy will be?

>> well, first of all, what he meant to me as a young activist in the anti-apartheid movement who fought for his freedom halfway around the world , he meant a huge amount to me and he means a huge amount to me. and i think his impact, his legacy is international. in anything i learned from him, it was patience. anybody who could be ill prisoned for 27 years and still fight for social and economic justice , i have no right to be impatient. and i think that people in south africa as much as they love him, also know that they can't hold on to him forever. and i do believe that south africa has some challenges right now. they really do. but i do believe they will continue to be strong and move forward.

>> one of the things that always struck me about his leadership. he also understood the country couldn't hold on to him forever. he had a very clear succession plan once he became president and the idea the country would need to move forward without him. which i think many leaders could take note of that.

>> absolutely.

>> that generosity of spirit and greatness. i want to thank you both for joining me.

>> thanks for having me on.

>> that does it for me. plays don't forget to share your comments. make sure you visit facebook. cast your vote on which official #twitter we should use for the show. we'll tally the votes and announce the winner tomorrow. thanks